Rafa Benitez reacts to the return of Newcastle’s Aleksandar Mitrovic from suspension

Aleksandar Mitrovic
Aleksandar Mitrovic

Rafa Benitez is looking forward to having Aleksandar Mitrovic back in the fold at Newcastle United.

The striker has served a three-game ban and is eligible to play in Sunday’s home game against Liverpool.

Mitrovic, handed the suspension for an elbow on West Ham United’s Manuel Lanzini late last month, completed his ban yesterday, when Newcastle were beaten 1-0 by Brighton and Hove Albion.

Spanish striker Joselu, a £5m signing, has started the club’s last three games in Mitrovic’s absence.

And Benitez must now choose between Joselu, Mitrovic and Dwight Gayle – who came off the bench at the Amex Stadium – for the role of lone striker in the Newcastle manager’s preferred formation.

Asked about Mitrovic’s return, United boss said: “We’ll see.

“The competition will increase now, and I think that will be good for the team.

“We want to have all the players available and competing, and then they have to realise that that is the way to have a stronger squad.

“Push, push and make sure they are ready to play.”

Mitrovic scored as a substitute against West Ham, while Joselu was also on target in that game. However, the Spaniard has missed a number of good chances in the last couple of games.

Gayle has yet to get off the mark this season.

Benitez sent Jonjo Shelvey on for the last 23 minutes against Brighton.

Shelvey – who replaced Isaac Hayden – joined loan signing Mikel Merino on the pitch, and Benitez could yet pair them from the start.

“They did well when they were playing together, but it depends on the game,” said Benitez.

“It depends on the moment during the games. (Yesterday) was a time when we needed to change something, and it was good for us.

“But with so much (possession) at the end, we have to create more chances and better chances and control things better.”